BOOK EXTRACT | Cult killer Cecilia Steyn’s cop husband knew nothing? Not so fast
‘On the Devil’s Trail’ is written by Ben Booysen, a cop who worked on the Krugersdorp Killers’ case, and Sunday Times assistant editor Nicki Gules
One of the things that I had asked [cult leader Cecilia Steyn’s former friend] Ria [Grunewald] at our meeting at the hotel was about a video that was made of [Ria’s pastor and mentor] Reg Bendixen’s murder. I had received information about this tape from Cecilia’s father.
Oom Piet Brand had phoned me and claimed that there were videotapes I should take a look at, which had allegedly been given to Cecilia’s sister’s husband, Phillip Jacobs, to destroy. I had hoped that they were the tapes of Reg Bendixen’s murder. Cecilia had apparently sent Marcel along with Zak and Marinda to film the killing with a small hand-held camera. [Marcel, 14 at the time, was the daughter of Cecilia’s cult lieutenant Marinda Steyn. She and her brother, Le Roux, were sentenced to life in prison for the murders.]
Marcel never confessed to filming the murder, but at the time I thought it was likely the only reason for Marcel being there — so Cecilia could see how he died. Zak and Marinda were in police uniform; they didn’t need a child to be there to encourage the pastor to open up for them, as they had testified in court.
Oom Piet said he believed the video was with Jacobs, his stepdaughter’s husband, whom they call Flippie. I told him that if he managed to get me that video with such a damning piece of evidence, I would put a big claim in for him to get reward money. Eventually he called and said he had the tapes but that they had been badly burnt. Piet told me that Flippie had sent his children to bury them and then one of them went and dug them up afterwards and gave them to Oom Piet.
Flippie didn’t even know Oom Piet had the tapes. The casings of the tapes had been badly melted, but the reels were still intact. I went to the police forensics headquarters in Pretoria and asked them to extract the information for me. At first, they said it would be impossible, but I told them to just f***ing try. Please.
I still believe that their corner flat at Cosanna Flats was far too tiny for him to be unaware of what was happening around him.
Eventually I got a CD back from forensics. Initially, I assumed that the footage was of Bendixen’s killing — until I pressed Play. What I saw instead looked like an orgy. This woman was lying on the ground and other women around her were closing her mouth, her ears, her nose and her fanny and her a*** and I thought, “What the f*** are these people doing and why am I watching this?” I couldn’t understand a thing. The picture quality was very bad, but you could see that they were busy with her mouth and other parts down there as well.
Eventually, when I saw Ria and showed her the footage and asked her what this was, she said it was recordings of the “high nights” that Cecilia insisted be filmed so she could watch them afterwards. Cecilia had told them that Satan could enter any part of her body, which was why the woman were touching her everywhere.
“But do you have any of this stuff?” I asked her.
I couldn’t believe my ears when she responded: “Ja, I have all the CDs at home.”
The husband who ‘knew nothing’
Another person who had allegedly threatened Piet and Mara Brand if they co-operated with me was Cecilia’s husband Dries Steyn — and he is still a cop, working as a warrant officer at the Johannesburg Public Order Policing unit.
Dries and Cecilia were married for 15 years and shared their tiny two-bedroom flat with their son and daughter. I still believe that their corner flat at Cosanna Flats was far too tiny for him to be unaware of what was happening around him.
For one thing, I have difficulty believing that Dries did not know about the drugs Cecilia was taking, or that his wife was dealing. Electus per Deus members were doing a lot of drugs. Even Le Roux and Marcel were allowed to take drugs, such as tik, cat, cocaine and dagga, as long as they were not “dangerous” drugs like heroin.
There was testimony from various witnesses in court that one night, while Cecilia, Marinda and Candice were packing drugs in the kitchen, Dries arrived home, walked past them and said: “You mustn’t do this shit here in the house. You go and do it up in Marinda’s flat.”
I also subpoenaed the service providers for all the group’s cellphone call records. Dries’s records were interesting. They showed that the number of the main drug dealer in Krugersdorp, a guy from Luipaardsvlei, who everyone knows as “Brazil”, was often called from Dries’s phone between midnight and 3am. It would, however, be difficult to prove that it was actually Dries who was phoning him. Perhaps his wife had been using his phone.
Dries also knew that his wife had plenty of money, even though she was unemployed and a stay-at-home mother. Over time, Cecilia received about two-million rand from Zak and about a million rand from Candice Rijavec. Dries allegedly received a lot of stuff that his wife had bought him — a four-wheeler bike, a big-screen TV, a PlayStation and expensive PlayStation games. He knew his wife was unemployed. If you’re not working, how can you fucking afford this? Dries was probably sitting in his screwed-up chair in the lounge the whole time, playing video games.
He probably had earphones on too because she’d probably kak him out to “put that sound down!”
Many people in the police believe that Dries is not that bright, but I don’t believe he is stupid at all. When Discovery Life investigator Shane Chatzkelowitz came to the flat to interview Cecilia, who was the main beneficiary of Zak’s R3.57m life-insurance policy, Dries was sitting next to Cecilia on the couch. Chatzkelowitz video-recorded the entire interview. When Chatzkelowitz told them that they needed to go back to Bethlehem to get some paperwork done, Cecilia, who claimed to be gravely ill, told him: “Dries will go, because I can’t leave the flat. Dries will go and do all that stuff for me.”
If Dries was not involved, why was he sitting next to her and telling the Discovery investigator that he would ensure that the correct forms were filled in? During a discussion about why Cecilia was the beneficiary of Zak’s life-insurance policy, the couple also told Chatzkelowitz about Mikeila’s murder. Cecilia falsely stated that Mikeila was killed by “illegal immigrants” who were not arrested for the crime but simply deported.
Dries sat by and said nothing to correct this. As a cop, he knew that this was not the truth. In my opinion, and for many reasons, he was well aware of his wife’s fraud.
When I found the stash of bullets in Marinda’s classroom, I questioned Dries because some of the ammunition looked very much like the ammo used by the Public Order Policing Unit. Evidence was also presented in court that, during Pastor Reg Bendixen’s murder, the police uniforms Zak and Marinda wore to gain entry to his property were Dries’s. Zak denied this, claiming he couldn’t have worn Dries’s uniforms because he’d have drowned in them.
How much did the husband know?
There was, however, no evidence that would place Dries at any of the crime scenes. But then I received information that a woman living near Cosanna Flats was asked to conceal an illegal, unlicensed firearm belonging to Cecilia and Zak. When I went to the house and spoke to the woman, she said that Cecilia, Dries and Marinda had come to her house with a golf bag, and asked her to hide it for them, which she did in an outside storeroom. Inside the bag was a box containing a plastic bag with bullets, and inside the bag was a firearm, concealed within a golf sock, to disguise the fact that it contained a gun.
One day the woman’s husband apparently went to the outside room and saw this tog bag and looked inside. He removed the golf sock and was shocked to discover that it was a firearm. He went back to his wife and asked what it was doing there.
She said: “It’s Cecilia’s. She and Dries asked me to hide it there.”
He said: “No. F*** them. Phone them now. They must come and take it now. I don’t want this shit on my property.”
The woman then phoned Cecilia who allegedly arrived with Dries and took possession of the bullets and the firearm. It was a .303 rifle that had been made into a sniper gun, a gun that was allegedly going to be used to kill me in a planned hit that I would later hear about.
I didn’t delve too much into Cecilia and Dries’s marriage. There were a lot of rumours that they just lived together, like housemates. In court, Cecilia testified that she was a lesbian who had affairs with women while she was married, and that was why she and Dries slept in separate bedrooms. It was a marriage in name only, she said. She told the judge that they married to have children, which was a priority in both their lives.
I have two children who are suffering until today because of this. I just want to move on and focus on them now.Dries Steyn
Support behind bars
But if your marriage was so bad and your wife was found guilty of murdering eleven people and sentenced to jail for the rest of her life, why would you then divorce her and give her half of your pension? This is exactly what Dries did, though I don’t know how she’s going to use the money in jail. If there was really no love between them, why did he visit his wife in jail every week? Why did he take his children to see her?
At one stage, while Cecilia was an awaiting-trial prisoner, I had police officers phone me regularly to say, “Listen, every second day he’s [Dries] going to prison with his state vehicle visiting his wife while on duty.”
So we reported this to his commanders, but as far as I know they did nothing about it. I think they felt sorry for him, and because he was a policeman, he was allowed access to the prison beyond normal visiting hours.
According to the probation report compiled during Cecilia’s sentencing, while she was an awaiting-trial prisoner, Dries was still supporting her a hundred per cent even though they were divorced. If you really are not in love with your wife, and you really slept in a chair or in your son’s bedroom throughout your marriage, according to Cecilia’s testimony, then why would you give her money and why would you visit this murderer every second day? You’re divorced — you don’t like her any more. What the f***?
Dries Steyn declined to comment when Nicki Gules called him for comment for this book. He insisted he had known nothing about what his wife had been doing.
“I have two children who are suffering until today because of this,” he said. “I just want to move on and focus on them now.”
He said he would defend the case of defeating the ends of justice and being an accessory after the fact, which I had laid against him, saying he did not have a case to answer.
“I knew nothing about what was going on,” he repeated.